After several ideas were considered to provide drivers increased safety - closed cockpits among them, Scuderia Ferrari have debuted the ‘halo’ style cockpit protection, which, as the name suggests, forms a protective shape around the driver’s head in the event of a crash.
The Maranello-based outfit are the only ones to be testing halo protection so far, with driver Kimi Raikkonen on track with the modified SF16-H on Day 7 of winter testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
World motorsport governing body FIA announced last week a new set of bodywork changes, to be effective from the 2017 Formula One season, that would see cars become faster and more aesethetically appealing, according to officials.
Safety changes, which the FIA were looking to implement regardless, gained momentum following the tragic accidents and subsequent deaths of Marussia driver Jules Bianchi at the Suzuka Circuit in Japan in 2014, and of IndyCar’s Justin Wilson at the Pocono Raceway in 2015. Both died of serious head injuries sustained during their respective accidents.
Prior to these, Henry Surtees, the 18-year-old son of racing legend John Surtees, passed away after he was struck by a tyre from an opponent’s car and suffered a head injury.
"We have tried to accelerate this project in the last 12 months with an aim to have something that we can practically apply on F1 cars for 2017," FIA safety director Laurent Mekies said in the governing body's official Auto publication.
Raikkonen did not set a time with the halo protection-equipped car, running only an installation lap on it. It remains to be seen whether the addition will hamper times at all, or given its structure affect visibility in any way.
Fans appear to be displeased with the aesthetics of the halo, with reactions on social media largely negative.
Team Ferrari, meanwhile, said that it was only a temporary addition, and would not be run again. Given that it had only been installed for the day, it did not have a hinge that would have given Raikkonen easy access to and from the cockpit.
Bianchi’s accident and death was the first such incident in Formula One after a 21-year gap; the last death before his had been that of the iconic Ayrton Senna, who passed away at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Italy.